Why did you start TRX? (Why was the company started? Where did the idea come from?)
My first career was as a US Navy SEAL. SEALs and other special operations personnel need to maintain the same level of fitness as top professional athletes. Yet throughout the 1990’s, we often found ourselves deploying abroad on operations without access to physical training facilities or equipment. On one such deployment, I came up with the idea to “Macguyver-together” a jiu-jitsu belt and a length of nylon webbing into a harness that allowed me to lift my bodyweight against gravity and perform a wide range of “functional training” movements — that is, exercise movements that mimicked the tactical actions I needed to perform as a member of my assault squadron. The other guys caught wind of my “gizmo” and wanted some for themselves. A spark of inspiration led to an invention of necessity and, “viola!”, the seed for what would later become TRX was planted and began to grow.
How did you come up with the name?
My strap was the first of its kind. So describing how it worked to an uninitiated bystander could be challenging. It didn’t stretch (like a rubber band) and had no weights (like a cable/pulley system) — so how did it work? As I explained it over and over to people, I noticed that I kept describing it as a “total-body resistance exercise” system that leveraged bodyweight against gravity to create the resistance. Military guys use acronyms for everything, and I needed one of my own. And at the time, the company’s logo was an anthropomorphic “X” that represented a body in motion doing exercise. So, to create my acronym, I took the first letter in each of those first two words: “total-body” (T), “resistance” (R) — and then slapped our X-icon on the end as a proxy for “eXercise”. And there it was: “TRX”. I had my acronym, it was catchy, and it stuck.
What do you think is the most challenging part of starting a brand and running a company?
The biggest challenge early in a startup process is always escaping obscurity. Because operating in obscurity for more than a short while means that nobody knows about you and you, therefore, aren’t selling much. If you stay in obscurity for long, you crater. Later, if a startup is successful in achieving the rapid growth and awareness required to escape obscurity, its biggest challenge usually becomes internal communication. That is, maintaining consistent, effective internal communication across the team to keep all team members aligned and “on mission.” Finally, as a business really begins to scale, the biggest challenge is to manage the capital requirements of steep growth without running out of cash and having to choke down predatory terms from an institutional investor or lender. Being an entrepreneur is a challenge from start to finish — but I can’t think of a better way to make a living!
What’s your favourite part of running a business?
I’m a startup guy. So, for sure, my favourite part of building a business is identifying a cool solution to a real problem and then taking that solution from concept to reality. Creating something great out of nothing is a super cool experience. To do that involves my other favourite part of running a company, which is cobbling together a talented group of “believers” and coalescing that group into a team that can accomplish “miracles on a shoestring.” Relatively few people have the guts or the mojo to accomplish a task like that; and that’s what turns me on as an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurship seems to be on the rise. What would be your advice to someone starting a business?
First, make sure that your product or service is fundamentally better than the status quo and that it solves a real problem. Too many companies launch themselves without clearing that hurdle and wind up chasing their own tail as a “solution in search of a problem.” Like Sisyphus, they struggle to roll their rock uphill forever and, whenever they stop pushing, it rolls back down to the bottom. Second, prioritize achieving and maintaining profitability as quickly as is feasible. Entrepreneurs sometimes assume that “getting big fast” is the most important goal; it’s not. Growing steadily AND profitably is the most important goal. Once you’re profitable, everything is better. The sky is bluer, the birds sing in the trees, and the clock ticks more slowly. You can think more clearly and your team feels more confident and secure. Most importantly, the profitable company is never put into the position of having to sell its equity to non-believers who have a different set of objectives and priorities than those in the long-term best interests of the brand, its team, and its customers. I wish you all good luck!